I was supine, having a hard time keeping my eyes open when I read on Facebook that Jared,* my half brother, was hit by a car and killed while crossing the street near Lexington, Kentucky in early January.
He died two days before my daughter's birthday, and two days before the third anniversary of my father's death.
Jared called me late one night in 1994, a few months after I found my birth mother. I knew about him but was (and am) moving in verrrryyyyy slooooow motion on the birth family front.
We talked for over an hour. He was sensitive, emotional, oversharing in the best way.
"He may have been drunk or high," said Kelly, my half sister, when I recounted the conversation.
That would make sense for a lot of reasons, mostly traumatic. Mostly his.
We never met. The last time we connected, he initiated. It was Mother's Day, 2018.
"Happy Mother's Day!" was his entirely unexpected FB message.
"Thanks!" was my lame response.
My teens had not yet reached out that (um, hello?) Mother's Day, if memory serves. They were/are sailing around the dark side of the moon**, otherwise known as individuating. I was grateful for his overture that day. He was kind, thoughtful. Longing for connection. And yet, my armor remained firmly in place.
He probably came with conditions. I knew from conditions. And conditional. (Said every adopted child, ever. See This Is Us.)
I called Kelly after reading her our-brother-died FB post. I asked several appropriate generic questions, revealing zero chinks in the armor.
"How are his daughters? Where was he going? How is Leigh Ann [our shared birth mother] taking it?"
Good. A friend's house. With a stiff upper lip.
Leigh Ann is notorious for not showing emotion. She gives stoic a new name. She's also a teetotaling, homeopathic-remedy loving, voracious reader. Nothing like Jared, I'm saying. Which is fascinating to this daughter. Never mind that her parents sent her to a Mary Magdalene (nightmare) "home" for shameful, slutty teenagers in 1965 for five months when she was 16 and pregnant with me. Never mind that Jared's charismatic dad bailed on her (so the story goes) when, two years later, she was pregnant with him and had to marry Kelly's controlling dad. Never mind that she was never NOT in love with her high school boyfriend, to whom she is now still married, having driven 275.7 miles away from Jared and Kelly when they were 11 and 13, into the arms of that high school boyfriend.
Are you following? It's a CBS after-school special and there will be a helpful family-of-origin-tree diagram courtesy of my often flummoxed therapists. Upshot: three kids with three men in six years then back to the high school boyfriend—her first and everlasting love—with whom she has never had kids and to whom she is still married. He is light, funny. Makes a killer sausage (Polish), asks questions and waits for the answers, loves her without condition.
In her defense, it was the '60s. Repression and free love have always been two sides of the same coin.
A few days after calling Kelly about Jared's death, having successfully processed nothing, my questions began to wake me up at night. Why was he walking to his friend's house at night in January? If he was high, what did he feel? Who was driving the car that hit him?
And this one. The one I can't stop asking: Did he purposely step out in front of the car?
Kelly was matter of fact in her text response.
"He did step out in front of a family driving an SUV. The family that hit him actually drove to the hospital to check on him. It was a mom, dad and two kids. There was a video that [Jared's daughter's husband] saw from a convenience store's surveillance camera. They were driving 55 mph when they hit him and he flew 45 feet. I did not see the video. That would have been too much."
* No real names here.
** Anne Lamott reference